13 July 2019

Queen Elisabeth's Art Deco Bandeau

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The Belgian royal tiara collection may be small, but the pieces they have are fascinating. Today we're discussing one of the most classic sparklers of the bunch: the diamond art deco bandeau that has been worn by generations of Belgian queens.




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The tiara was made for Queen Elisabeth of Belgium in the early twentieth century. It's relatively small, featuring a simple diamond zig-zag design punctuated by round diamonds and crossed by diamond laurel wreath. It’s also a convertible tiara — it can be worn as a necklace (a choker, more specifically), atop the head as a traditional tiara, or across the forehead as a bandeau.


Herman Richir's portrait of Queen Astrid, ca. 1930s (Royal Collection of Belgium/Wikimedia Commons)

Queen Elisabeth seemed to prefer some of her other tiaras to this simpler bandeau, and she eventually gave the tiara to her daughter-in-law, Queen Astrid. Sadly, Astrid didn’t have long to make use of the piece; she died in a car accident at the age of only 29.


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The next wearer of the tiara was Princess Lilian, the second of wife of Astrid's husband, King Leopold III. Along with wearing the bandeau as a tiara (supplemented with extra diamonds, likely the large round diamonds from the Nine Provinces Tiara), Lilian sat for a portrait wearing the piece as a choker.


Paola wears the tiara, August 1968 (Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy)

But again, the tiara was passed along to another member of the royal family relatively quickly. Queen Paola, then Princess of Li├Ęge, began wearing the tiara in the 1960s, nestling the sparkler in her fashionable bouffant hairstyles.


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Paola wore the tiara regularly both before and after her husband's accession to the Belgian throne. She wore it for the wedding of Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary of Denmark in 2004. (You'll also notice that she's wearing the base of the Nine Provinces Tiara as a choker necklace!)


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Above, she wears the tiara for a diplomatic gala dinner at Laeken Castle in October 2004, pairing it with her diamond and pearl half-moon earrings and one of her diamond necklaces.


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This side view from that occasion gives you an idea of the length of the bandeau.


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In 2010, Paola chose the tiara for another major royal wedding: the nuptials of Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel of Sweden.


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She also chose it for an important family affair: the pre-wedding ball held for her great-nephew, Hereditary Grand Duke Guillaume of Luxembourg, in October 2012.


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Paola has also generously lent the tiara to other family members on multiple occasions. In December 1999, she loaned the sparkler to her new daughter-in-law, Mathilde d'Udekem d'Acoz, for her royal wedding.


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And in July 2014, she loaned the tiara to Elisabetta Rosboch von Wolkenstein for her wedding to Prince Amedeo of Belgium (Paola's grandson).


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Paola is still the owner of the bandeau tiara today. She passed the Nine Provinces along to Queen Mathilde last year, but the Art Deco Bandeau remains in her collection, even though she's no longer wearing tiaras in public. Most recently, Paola loaned the bandeau to her daughter, Princess Astrid, who wore it for the German state banquet in Brussels in March 2016.

Note: This is an updated and expanded version of an earlier post.